Eighteen months ago, I woke up after another St. Patrick’s Parade Day hungover.
My stomach lurches. My eyes fall onto a discarded Papa John’s box. One third of a mushroom-and-grreen-peppers pizza pie remains, sitting idly at room temperature.
The other two-thirds bubble inside of me, a terrible science experiment gone wrong. My head is a gong, coming in waves of pain.
This is just another hangover in a long line of hangovers. Nothing really changes.
Feeling shitty is the new normal.
So I decide it’s time to take a break. Just give myself a month to feel something else. Thirty days. It’s nothing, right. Thirty days sober. You can do it.
That ended up being the last time I drank alcohol. I didn’t mean to quit forever. I just started… enjoying sobriety?!
Waking up feeling… okay? Realizing the constant consumption of a depressant isn’t actually helping your depression? Huh.
One thing people struggle with is: What does a sober life look like? Especially in a place like New Haven, where so many of our activities are focused on the consumption of alcohol?
Whether you’re doing Sober October or Sober Curious or realizing that your alcohol consumption is very slowly wearing you down and you can’t keep pretending anymore, I’ll tell ya all about the wonders of sobriety.
Nonalcoholic Beers are your Friend
I didn’t want to stop going to bars. I’m a social person, sort of. I want to be around people. Talk to them. Laugh at them being stupid. God, they’re so stupid.
Yet drinking a water or a club soda or a Diet Cola is… not the same. It goes down too quick and does nothing to simulate The Bar Experience.
Many bars actually provide nonalcoholic beers. Some of them are good: Like Athletic Brewing out of Stratford.
Most of them are not good. So, so not good. Yet something about holding that O’Doul’s, sitting at the bar. The motion of raising the beer and drinking it. Oh god it’s so bad.
Heineken 0.0 is a solid choice, and they sell it at Trinity. Plus, Heineken is already bad, so the lack of alcohol is barely noticeable. Of the non-alc, non-craft beers, I think Buckler is my favorite. It’s almost like a real beer.
Trinity tends to keep something in stock. Cask Republic has some. Sometimes. Irish Pubs tend to be better than most, I don’t know. Maybe it just attracts recovering alcoholics.
Beer Snob Bars tend to be the absolute worst. The bartender at Beer Collective laughed at me when I asked.
Which is a great opportunity to make up a story about how I couldn’t save my best friend from falling off the side of a mountain camping because I’d had one too many beers and started sobbing uncontrollably.
Anyway I’m not allowed at Beer Collective anymore.
Barcade is cool cause yeah it’s a bar but also there’s video games and pinball.
One thing about not drinking is you’ll find yourself suddenly very tired at midnight while all your friends get louder and dumber. That’s ok. You can go home.
And wake up. Feeling great. Or at least, y’know. Not terrible.
Finding Other Communities
When you build your entire life around partying, it’s not easy to just… suddenly change everything. Bye, friends! I have new friends now and they… meditate? Gross.
But you can’t just hang out in bars all the time not drinking like some kind of psychopath.
You need to find communities that aren’t quite so focused on alcohol.
Consider Elm City Games. Matt Fantastic and Trish Loter (and the whole gang) have cultivated a great, friendly community open to everyone, and booze is certainly not a requirement.
You can enjoy yourself without it. In fact, I’d make the argument drinking alcohol probably makes you worse at strategy games.
As evidence to the court, I’d like to present the last 15 years of my life.
Escape Rooms can be a great, sober way to test your friendships and find out which of your friends are incredibly bossy.
newhaven.io is another community I belong to of local software developers which is not necessarily alcohol-focused. Sometimes we meet at pubs, but other times we program and have brunch or do talks.
And if you don’t feel like a community exists for an interest you have, why not make one. You’d be surprised how many people crave something you might want to do.
Dating is Weird
Good luck thinking of sober dates.
Going out for drinks is ideal for dating for a few reason:
- It loosens people up a bit
- It’s fairly noncommittal time-wise
- It’s fairly noncommittal financially
- It can lead to other things!
- (Like sandwiches)
Now that you don’t drink, you can uhhhh go to a cafe.
Hike? Well sure that’s great if you already know they aren’t a murderer, but nothing says “I’m a murderer” like saying “I’m definitely not a murderer let’s go to the woods.”
So now I’m doing adventure dates where we zip line at furniture stores?
Maybe we can hang out in a mall and buy Marilyn Manson CD’s.
Bowling. You can go bowling. OK. That’s one thing. Great job.
I Guess I’ll Go Outside.. ?
When you’re hungover, the only real move is bacon egg and cheese and watch Netflix until the pain stops. Maybe it’ll be noon. Maybe it’ll be 6pm. Maybe it’ll be tomorrow.
But when you’re sober, you have the whole day ahead of you. Tennis? Hiking? Basketball?
Heck you can just go on a nice, long walk and enjoy your local neighborhood. If you’re feeling super productive, bring along a garbage bag and pick up litter. Especially if you’re in my neighborhood.
Sometimes It’s Fun to be The Sober One
The great thing about being sober is you get to remember everybody else’s antics. And then remind them at the most opportune times.
Hey man remember when you fought that bush? No? Well, I’m gonna say the same thing now that I said then: You are not tougher than a bush.
Here, let me show you the video.
I don’t know why I stopped getting invited to parties.
It’ll Be Okay.
I think for a long time I knew my drinking was hurting me. But my life was centered around alcohol. I was worried I would lose my friendships. The life I built with people in New Haven. My ability to be social.
But I didn’t. My friendships have evolved. And yeah maybe I don’t make it to every party or stay until 3 am and get a little FOMO.
However, I also wake up and don’t hate myself or my life. And that’s worth quite a lot.
You don’t owe anybody your happiness. I realize that now. I am happy with who I am. Roughly.
Anybody who can’t or won’t support you isn’t your friend.